When it comes to spending on agriculture programs, all of the wrangling over this year's federal budget is just a foretaste of bigger battles, according to one farm policy veteran.



"Congress is looking for deep budget cuts this year. Some of that is bound to come from agriculture," said Mary Kay Thatcher, director of the American Farm Bureau Federation's agriculture policy team, who has worked on several farm bills over the years. "Farm Bureau supports efforts to reduce the budget deficit and is willing to do our share to make that happen. We just want to make sure we aren't doing more than our fair share."



Over the longer-term, Congress will need to write a new farm bill in 2012, and some programs that are authorized by the bill will face serious funding challenges. "The problem is that future spending will be based on past spending baselines," Thatcher explained. "The baseline for nutrition programs has grown, but for some farm, conservation and energy programs, it will go away. If there is a baseline, there is no cost to continue. If there is no baseline, there is a cost to continue, and increasing the cost of the farm bill is not an option."